How Andreas Christensen is putting his Chelsea exit behind him at Barcelona

Barcelona’s Supercopa de Espana win was Xavi’s first trophy as manager at Camp Nou, but it also held special significance for Andreas Christensen.

After a difficult start at Barca following a bitter exit from Chelsea, the centre-back has finally found his place in the team – and it’s been backed up with a first piece of silverware at his new club.

Christensen started alongside Jules Konde in the center of defence, with Ronald Araujo pushed to the right to cope with the threat of Vinicius Junior. The plan worked as Barca ran out 3-1 winners – Vinicius Jr was virtually anonymous and Real were limited to a late Karim Benzema consolation goal.

The Denmark international played a key role in Barça’s victory. He has a 75 percent duel success rate and lost possession just twice, the best of any starter. Christensen also recorded a 98 percent completion rate, with 62 of his 63 passes reaching their intended target, along with a 96 percent success rate in Real’s half.

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It was the last game in which Christensen impressed. Perhaps his best performance for Barcelona came in a 1-0 win away to Atletico Madrid a week ago, which put Xavi’s side three points clear at the top of La Liga.

This is shown by the statistics. Christensen was the Barcelona player with the most passes in the game, according to FBref, with 86 (of 90 attempts), ahead of Kunde with 67 and Araujo with 62. He also had the second-most touches of either team (100 ), only two behind Kunde.

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He was just as effective in defence, working well with centre-back partner Araujo – Christensen was the Barcelona player with the second-most balls recovered (no), one less than Pedri.

On the same day, Christensen’s previous club Chelsea were beaten 4-0 by Manchester City in the FA Cup.

Since losing the centre-back pair of Christensen and Antonio Rudiger on free transfers to Barcelona and Real Madrid after their contracts expired last summer, Chelsea have spent a lot of money trying to strengthen their back line without much success.

Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana arrived from Napoli and Leicester City, the latter for £70m ($85.4m), but both have struggled.

Fofana has suffered injury problems. He limped off with a sprained knee ligament against AC Milan in early October and missed out on a potential place in France’s World Cup squad as a result. Once he recovered, he re-injured his knee in a friendly against Premier League neighbors Brentford during the break in the club’s season for the tournament in Qatar. He is not expected to return until later this month.

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Christensen experienced a disappointing end to his Chelsea career.

like The athletic It was reported last May that he was on the verge of renewing his contract in August 2021 after helping them win the Champions League. There was confidence that he would sign a five-year contract worth £140,000 a week, but a misunderstanding between club and player meant that did not happen.

Andreas Christensen put in a good performance in Barcelona’s 1-0 win away to Atletico Madrid (Photo: David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images).

According to a source close to Christensen, who wants to remain anonymous to protect his position, the Dane was happy to live in London, having originally signed for Chelsea in 2012 at the age of 16, but began to receive signals from the club that he did not . like.

During that time, Barcelona coach Xavi spoke twice with Christensen via video call to try to convince him to move to the Catalan club. Christensen also felt that there were times when there were doubts about his ability and that having arrived at Chelsea at a young age, he was destined to always be seen as an academy player.

Christensen, 26, did not question his talent but felt as if some at the club did not trust his ability to handle high-pressure situations and elite football. With Barcelona interested and calls from Xavi clear how much he was wanted at Camp Nou, the defender made up his mind.

He decided the time was right, given Barcelona’s project and Xavi’s style of football.

Christensen felt he would be more important at Camp Nou and would play more than Chelsea – although that was not the case in his first few weeks in Catalonia.

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This was partly because Xavi constantly experimented with his line-up in the first half of the season.

He tried Christensen in a back four against Rayo Vallecano in their first La Liga game – a goalless home draw in which the defender was replaced by Sergi Roberto in the 60th minute.

Xavi then did not play at centre-back at all in two of the next three matches, before making his Champions League debut for his new club by starting in a 5–1 win over Czech outsiders Viktoria Plzen on 7 September. Rested the following weekend against Cádiz before starting away to Bayern Munich three days later, where he was replaced in the 70th minute by Eric Garcia as Barcelona lost 2–0.

Christensen was impressive, despite Xavi often rotating the Barcelona line because of his large squad.

In late September, fellow centre-back Araujo suffered a thigh injury, which led to him undergoing surgery. Then Christensen joined him in the treatment room, spraining a ligament in his left ankle in the 1-0 Champions League loss against Inter Milan at San Siro in early October. He returned a week before the World Cup break began, coming on for the last minute in place of Gerard Pique in a 2-0 home win over Almeria.

He played every minute of Denmark’s surprisingly poor World Cup campaign – European Championship semi-finalists 16 months earlier, they exited the group stage with a single point from their three matches – and scored an equalizer in their 2-1 loss to France, and has returned to club football in impressive form, producing a solid performance in the city derby against Espanyol on New Year’s Eve before his defensive masterclass against Atletico and another assured display on Sunday.

The numbers suggest that Christensen should firmly establish himself as a first-choice centre-back alongside Araujo. He has won his battle with Garcia and also appears to have displaced fellow summer signing Kounde, who has often played at right-back this season.

After the manner of his departure from his old club and suggestions in the Spanish press that Real Madrid have signed the better Chelsea centre-back, Christensen appears to be back to his best.

The contrast with Rudiger on Sunday could not have been starker – while Christensen impressed at the heart of Barcelona’s defence, his former Chelsea team-mate suffered a blow to the head and then produced a misplaced pass in the build-up for his side to concede to be First goal. The Germany centre-back is caught out of position and Robert Lewandowski eases Gavi through on goal.

Most importantly from Barcelona’s point of view, they finally seem to have a solid defensive platform on which to build. Christensen will be hoping that the Supercopa is just the first of many trophies with Barça.

Other writers: Paul Ballus and Simon Johnson

(Top photo: Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images)


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